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Brian Setzer Donates Gretsch Guitar to the Smithsonian

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Brian Setzer

Grammy Award-winning musician Brian Setzer donated his signature orange Gretsch guitar to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History during a ceremony on Oct. 17.

The replica guitar is evocative of Setzer’s original 1959 Gretsch 6120 “Stray Cat” guitar, for which he raided his Monopoly game for two dice, drilled holes in them and attached them to take the place of the missing tone knobs. To help resemble a 1950s-era “hot rod,” Setzer added three decals that, in the replica, were duplicated by Gretsch.

The Gretsch signature artist  is known for continually taking chances with innovative and daring musical styles, while single-handedly resurrecting two forgotten genres of music, first with 1980s rockabilly band the Stray Cats and then again in the late 1990s with his 18-piece “Rockin’ Big Band,” The Brian Setzer Orchestra. Setzer also appeared on the big screen in the 1987 Ritchie Valens biographical film La Bamba, portraying rockabilly pioneer Eddie Cochran.

“Brian Setzer is a prolific and distinctive contributor to American music,” said John Edward Hasse, the museum’s curator of American music. “Proof of his legacy exists not only in the longevity of his career and in his lengthy discography, but also in his ability to cross musical boundaries.”

In 1982, Setzer released “Rock This Town,” his first single with the Stray Cats and a track on which he played a 1959 Gretsch 6120 model guitar. As the guitar aged, it began to fall apart. Gretsch Custom Shop Master Builder Stephen Stern replicated every detail of the original guitar, and when he presented it to Setzer, the rockabilly star found it to be virtually indistinguishable from his original. It is the 2006 replica that is now in the museum’s collection.

“What an honor it is to be in the Smithsonian just for playing the music that I love,” said Setzer. “Maybe in a hundred years people will look at my guitar and be inspired to play it and enjoy it the way I do.”

Setzer’s guitar joins a large and diverse collection of musical instruments at the museum that includes Joh

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Guitar World Demos the G6128T-1962 Duo Jet

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Paul Riario of Guitar World recently got his hands on a Gretsch G6128T-1962 Duo Jet and gave it a very positive review.

“This is just a gorgeous and elegant guitar,” he noted.

Riario went through all of the features of the classic solid-body guitar, and also played it to showcase the tone.

“With just a couple of tweaks, this guitar plays incredibly and has a focused sound. Definitely check it out,” Riario concluded.

Check out the full demo below.

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Watch Temples Perform for KUTX Live

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During this year’s ACL Fest in Austin, UK psych quartet Temples also participated in KUTX Live event at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Watch the band perform “Sun Structures” below.

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Train Strips Down ‘Angel in Blue Jeans’

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San Francisco-based rock band Train offered a different take of Bulletproof Picasso lead single “Angel in Blue Jeans” when they performed on the Honda Stage, a new platform created to discover and share music.

Watch the stripped-down version in the clip below.

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Steve Hunter Releases New Tone Poems Live DVD

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Steve Hunter has truly left his stamp on some of the most beloved rock and roll tracks of the 1970s and beyond.

Not only did Hunter play on five Alice Cooper albums, but he also performed on Peter Gabriel’s debut solo album that included the classic “Solsbury Hill” and was featured on two of Lou Reed’s live albums (Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal and Lou Reed Live).

As one of the top session artists in the game, Hunter has also worked with David Lee Roth, Dr. John, Julian Lennon, Glenn Campbell and several other luminaries.

Last but certainly not least, Hunter, a.k.a. the Deacon, also boasts several solo albums, including 2013’s The Manhattan Blues Project, which featured cameos from Johnny Depp, Joe Perry, Joe Satriani and Marty Friedman.

Hunter’s latest initiative Tone Poems Live is a live CD/DVD that was recorded in the studio in Los Angeles. Interestingly enough, Hunter wasn’t even sure he wanted to move forward with Tone Poems Live.

“It wasn’t really my idea,” he explained. “One of the guys that had contacted us when I was doing the Kickstarter for The Manhattan Blues Project came to us later with the idea of doing a live video. When we first started talking about it, I wasn’t crazy about the idea. But it evolved into something where we could record it live, kind of like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.”

Hunter recruited a veteran list of musicians to help with the sessions in bassist Tony Levin, pianist Phil Aaberg and drummer Alvino Bennett.

“I’ve worked with these guys before, and they’re all brilliant artists,” said Hunter. “That made things move quickly once we rehearsed for a couple of days.”

Tone Poems Live was actually filmed in a single day, as the collective ran through each song twice, with the best version landing on the compilation.

“That’s the way they used to be done,” Hunter said. “I remember reading about groups like the Animals recording their entire album in a day for like $35. That’s the way things were done back then. As much fun as technology is to play with, sometimes it’s good just to get guys in the room and record it. It’s a different ballgame.”

For the session, Hunter used a trio of Gretsch Custom Shop CVTs built by longtime Gretsch Master Builder Stephen Stern.

“He’s a true master,” Hunter said of Stern. “They are absolutely superb guitars. His craftsmanship is a real art; it’s almost scary. You can inspect those guitars with a magnifying glass, and they’re perfect – all three of them.”

The trio of Custom Shop guitars have mahogany bodies and necks and rosewood fingerboards. One boasts a Black finish, one is in Lake Placid Blue and the other is in Sea Foam Green. Hunter said he is still making adjustments to some of the pickups, however, and he even asked Stern to put a Kahler tremolo on the Sea Foam Green CVT.

“I know there are Gretsch players out there who get all annoyed when you change something on a guitar, like you’ve committed the ultimate sin, but I’ve always personalized my guitars,” Hunter said with a laugh. “Brian Setzer did that, so have many others, whether it’s the pickups or knobs or whatever. That’s kind of what I did with the three that Steve made me. I’m still experimenting with pickups, but the ultimate piece of wood that Steve put together is just beyond words.”

Click here to preview or purchase Hunter’s latest offering, and check out a promo video below.

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